Dark Wolf Page 39

Don’t start a war, he cautioned. The members of the council appear to have come here in good faith. Give us time to work this out.

If a war has been started, Gabriel reminded him grimly, the Lycans fired the first round.

Emotions were high. There was no getting around that. He didn’t know what he would have done had the Lycans attacked either of his children. He put his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. “Bring them home. All of them.” He didn’t care if Rolf and the other council members heard him. He wanted them to hear. They could see for themselves what his people were capable of, just by looking at them—seasoned, ancient warriors—every one of them. Let the council call their packs and warn them. There was no trap these men would be caught in.

He looked around him at the men and women. They were not volatile, or impatient. He couldn’t even say that about Zacarias. They were steady, calm and deadly. Do you understand what I’m saying? The children belong to all of us. Bring them home no matter the cost.

The seven men looked at him, straight into his eyes—each one of them—and then nodded slowly. Mikhail lifted his hand. “Good journey and Godspeed.”

Rolf shook his head with a soft sigh. “We have much to talk about.”

Mikhail nodded. “We will talk, but our children must be brought home.”

“Can you walk?” Fen asked Zev. He took a slow look around him. “Most of the Lycans have gone into the forest, or have retreated toward their camp, but a few remain. I believe those few are tasked with killing you. It seems you’re an important man, Zev Hunter.”

Zev didn’t open his eyes, lying there in the tall grass, resting, waiting for his Lycan genes and the infusion of Carpathian blood to close the wound on his arm. He never took his hand from the hilt of his sword. “Being important has its drawbacks.”

“Being the friend of an important man has its drawbacks,” Fen said. He could feel the hair on the back of his neck raising. They were targets and the Lycans were armed with guns.

Tatijana, shield us. Zev has lost far too much blood. I need to bring him into the shelter.

You cannot. He is Lycan and no Lycan can pass.

It is the only way to save his life. He has Carpathian blood in him. How much I do not know, but he told me he feels the change already beginning.

It’s a terrible risk.

Fen sighed. “You’re really a pain in the ass, Zev, important or not. Here’s where we stand. Tatijana is shielding us from bullets at the moment, but it won’t last for long because dawn is breaking and we’ll need to go to ground. You aren’t safe with your Lycans without someone watching your back, until you’re at full strength again, and even then, you’re in danger.”

“Is this going somewhere?” Zev asked, lifting his lashes enough to peer at Fen. “Because I figured that out all by myself.”

“I can try taking you inside where no one can get to you, but if you don’t have enough Carpathian blood, it won’t work. We’ll have to make a run for it and I’m not certain where to take you. I’ll need to go to ground. Is there anyone you trust at this point? Trust them with your life?”

“They’re in the Carpathian Mountains guarding the council. That’s why they’re there, because I trust them,” Zev said. He tried sitting up, but a wave of weakness sent him back to the ground. “Get out of here, Fen. Go while you can.”

Fen snorted his derision. “Tatijana’s sister isn’t here to see your heroics, so just stop. I’m going to try to bring you inside. You can rest and guard us while we sleep.”

A faint grin softened the rough edges to Zev’s face. “Now I see where this is going. I’m the one injured and you’re going to bed expecting me to guard your sorry ass.”

“That would be about right,” Fen said with an answering grin that faded very quickly. “We have one fully human boy who would have to sit through the day alone. He’s wounded, courageous and he’ll stand, but the responsibility of guarding his father, uncle, my brother and Skyler as well as Tatijana and me, is a huge one for a kid.”

Zev patted his sword. “No problem then. I can take on the entire Lycan world for you, with a kid no less, just so you can get your beauty sleep.”

“My lifemate is Tatijana and you see what she looks like. I can’t risk looking like I’m Dracula.”

Zev laughed softly. “I don’t know what that woman sees in you.”

“Quite frankly, neither do I.” Fen huffed out his breath. “You ready for this?”

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Zev answered.

Once again he struggled to sit up. This time he made it. His face, weathered and tanned over the years, had gone pale. He looked as if he might be sick, but he forced himself to stay sitting upright, swaying a little.

“Give me a second and then we’ll try standing.”

“Once we’re up, we’ve got to make it to the fortress,” Fen cautioned. “Tatijana can only shield us from so many positions. If they put snipers in the trees . . .”

Zev nodded. “I feel them. They’re surrounding us.” He looked at Fen. “That’s how I knew I was becoming something different. I felt the others sometimes when I shouldn’t have. Lycans don’t give off energy.”

“They do, but they contain it,” Fen corrected. “As your body becomes a Guardian, your senses grow even more acute.”

If Zev was at the point where his awareness had grown to such an extent, it might be enough to allow him into Skyler’s shelter. Weeks earlier they’d been in several battles together. Tatijana had given Zev blood. Other Carpathians had. It was possible those last infusions had pushed Zev into the actual transformation. No one really knew when it happened.

Going from Carpathian to Lycan was easier to know because the wolf was a dead giveaway. One slowly became aware of his presence. A Lycan already had the wolf in him. There was no way to realize what was happening until it was far too late. If Zev suspected he had become a mixed blood, he more than likely was.

Something smacked into the shield Tatijana had provided, a bullet splintering the transparent armor so that it spiderwebbed outward into a starburst pattern.

“I think we just ran out of time,” Fen said. He leapt to his feet and reached down for Zev.

Zev was game, Fen had to hand it to him. He struggled up as Fen pulled him into a standing position.

“I’m good,” Zev assured. “The dizziness is beginning to pass.”

That was probably bull, but Fen wasn’t about to argue. A second bullet joined the first, and then a volley rang out. He got his arm around Zev and they sprinted for the shelter. Fen heard the bullets hitting the shield from every direction. There had to be at least five shooters—all marksmen if the bullet patterns were anything to go by. Each would have been a hit in the head. Whoever was running Gunnolf’s army had recruited some sharpshooters.

Once they reached the shelter wall, that rippling transparency that held out Lycans and bullets alike, Fen stepped back to allow Zev to go through first.

“What do I do?”

“You just walk through. If you make it, you’re in, if not, I don’t know what happens to you.”

“You haven’t been inside?”

“No, but Dimitri is in there and he’s like us.”

Zev took a deep breath, let it out and took a step. The wrench to his bones was horrendous, a twisting, yanking sensation ripping at him that drove the air from his lungs and seemed to pull apart muscle and tissue. His heart accelerated, beating so hard his chest hurt.

He would have pulled back but he knew Fen would stay with him, continuing to risk his life. They wouldn’t stand a chance outside the fortress, either one of them. Not alone. He plowed forward while his cells screamed and his body felt torn into pieces.

Suddenly he was free of the sensation, falling to the ground, able to breathe again, his heart slowing to a more normal pace. He rolled over, coughing, pulling air into his burning lungs. He kept his gaze fixed on Fen. Fen had been mixed blood for centuries. He was truly half Lycan and half Carpathian. There was no doubt in his mind that Fen experienced that same wrenching, tearing apart of his body when Fen fell to the ground beside him, breathing just as hard.

“Just who is this girl who managed to construct this thing?” Zev asked.

Fen would have laughed if he could get enough air to do so. His body still felt as if it had been jerked in a thousand different directions. How did one describe Skyler? “She looks like an innocent angel. That’s how my brother describes her. Her name is Skyler.”

Zev brought his hand to his forehead. “I met her. In the forest. She was lost, she said. She had a sprained ankle and couldn’t find her way back to her camp.”

Fen did laugh then. He couldn’t help himself. “She totally suckered you.”

“She’s human.”

“She’s Skyler, Dimitri’s lifemate. The Lycans took him, and she took him back.”

Byron approached them with a hint of caution. He smiled, but his eyes were flat and cold. “Tatijana told me you were bringing him inside, that he was injured very badly. Does he need blood?”

“Yes,” Fen said. “And I want Tatijana to take a look at his wound.”

“I’m right here,” Zev reminded. “I’m Zev. Zev Hunter. It seems my own people want me dead so Fen invited me inside.”

“I’m Byron Justicano,” Byron introduced himself. “Josef is my nephew. He and Paul helped Skyler rescue Dimitri.”

“Brave kids,” Zev said. He nodded toward Paul, who lifted a hand and gave him a faint grin. “Good actors, too. They fooled me.” He huffed out his breath in disgust. “I carried that girl all the way back to her camp. She never gave herself away, not even for a second. I was suspicious, of course, because of the timing, but not of her, just that the camp was there when we’d made certain no one would be in the area.”

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